Minimalist Living: How To Start, Pros and Cons, and Is it Right For You?
With both the economy and the environment being a concern, many people are considering minimalist living. Some have grown disillusioned and even overwhelmed by so many products luring people to spend. Even before the pandemic, almost half the people surveyed by YouGov America considered themselves minimalists or wanted a more minimalist lifestyle.
Some might say minimalism is a new fad, but it has been seven years since Marie Kondo’s famous book on minimalism, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, was released, and two years since her show on Netflix. Goodreads has around 3,000 books on minimalism, and an Amazon book search for minimalism yields over 10,000 results. Minimalism has had strong support for a long time.
What Is Minimalist Living?
Minimalism is a lifestyle where someone chooses to own only what they need and forego many luxuries, mainly material luxuries. Many minimalism proponents also say that the lifestyle focuses on life experiences, rather than possessions. According to The Minimalists, minimalism is focusing on what adds value to your life.
This may mean different things to different people, but note that striving for a minimalist lifestyle does not mean taking a vow of poverty. It means letting go of the things in life that are not serving you, which will look different for every person.
Benefits of Minimalism
Minimalist living can have huge benefits, not only for the people who practice it but even for their community and the Earth.
This benefit is the most obvious. If you don’t buy things, you will have more money. The lifestyle does save you money in more ways, though. When you stop buying indiscriminately, it’s easier to make and stick to a budget. This means you can invest more money consistently, which leads to more passive income.
When you have less things, you spend less time taking care of them. You may even want to downsize your home, which would mean less time maintaining it.
Once you are in the routine of a minimalist lifestyle, you also spend less time shopping for unnecessary items. This frees up more time for your relationships and experiences, instead.
Better for the Environment
If you’re buying less, fewer resources go into making the items you’ll use. A minimalist lifestyle also means that you can put more time and research into buying something of higher quality that supports the causes you believe in.
This isn’t only on the front end of the purchase but on the back end, too. If you buy only what you need, you will create less waste.
Better Mental Health
Stress creates clutter, which creates more stress and disorganization. When you have fewer things, there is less responsibility to care for them, which means less stress. Having less to do at home also means finding more ways to entertain yourself.
As many people found out during the pandemic, walking is a great way to entertain yourself, and it’s healthy for the body and brain. It is also free and sometimes doesn’t even require shoes.
Drawbacks of Minimalism
Despite the benefits, there are reasons people may be nervous about taking on a minimalist lifestyle. Some cons you may have to consider include:
Since a minimalist lifestyle means having only what you need, you have to be more aware of those needs. If you live with another person and decide to drop down to only one car, you will have to plan when each person has it. You will also have to make a plan for if the car breaks down or gets totaled.
Having only what you need means being aware of what you will need in the future.
When transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle, expenses can go up for a little bit as you find the routine and items that you love. You may have to spend more money initially for higher-quality items that last longer if you’re used to buying cheaper versions and constantly replacing them.
There is also an emphasis on experiences in the minimalist community. Depending on where you start, you may not cut enough buying out to fund expensive trips and experiences. You can use your minimalist skills to find local and less expensive experiences.
People buy things to feel good. Sometimes, the actual purchase produces the dopamine, and sometimes the ownership does it. Whatever the reason, if this describes you, then you will have to deal with not getting that rush. In addition to those feelings, you may still feel some jealousy or longing when you see other people shopping.
These feelings can be enough to send some people to the store. You may need to find new outlets to curb your urges until you’ve gotten used to your lifestyle.
How To Get Started With Minimalist Living
The first step for minimalist living is reducing the number of things you own. Some may say this is just decluttering, and they’re right — decluttering is the first step toward a full minimalist lifestyle. You can throw the stuff away, donate it, or even make some extra cash, but get it out of your house and out of your mind.
The next step is practicing not buying things. Try a no-buy week, month, or even a year, depending on how much you have. Once you commit, you’ll quickly notice how often you nickel and dime yourself and your budget.
You can just maintain at this level, keeping consumption low, or you can take it further if you want.
Is Minimalist Living Right For You?
Transitioning from a standard lifestyle to minimalist living can be emotional. If you have a lot of other projects, now may not be the best time to start living minimally or a slow transition might be better.
There are more benefits than drawbacks to minimalist living. Find the style and level of minimalism that works best for you.
Though some resources might tell you otherwise, there is no right or wrong minimalist lifestyle. The whole point is to intentionally design a life that you love. And, though it may feel uncomfortable when you start, you will likely find it a rewarding change.
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- YouGov. 2019. "What Do Americans Think of Minimalism?"
- Vox. 2019. "Tidying up With Marie Kondo: Netflix's New Star, Explained."
- The Minimalists. "What Is Minimalism?"
- National Geographic. 2020. "Why Pandemic Stress Breeds Clutter—and How to Break the Cycle."